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Submitted by omacconsulting on Sat, 02/28/2009 - 21:10.

Manding. Do you know this word as it relates to Autism and Communication? It is something you need to know about and I'll touch the very basics of what it is and why it is important.

Mand is a term that B.F. Skinner used. I would encourage you to research his work on Verbal Behavior, as I can not go into details in this post. I will define it as a verbal 'demand'. Very simply put: it is when a child makes a verbal request, in some way, for a reinforcement. Sometimes this verbal request is atypical but it is still a request for a reinforcer. It may be a noise or it may be a word or phrase.

Understanding this term is very important when working with a student on the spectrum who is minimally verbal or non verbal. It is also important when working with a child who may be exhibitting behaviors that are not appropriate or typical. The child may be unknowinly reinforced for exhibitting those behaviors. There are things you need to remember about encouraging communication using a understanding of Manding.

1. Observe the student. I mean closely observe the child. This is the only way to gather data on the manner in which they are currently communicating.

2. How is the student getting their needs and desires met now? Pointing, screaming, exhibitting behaviors like hitting, or are they using words/phrases?

3. Do a reinforcement survey. I have posted on this before. What is the student going to mand for - edibles, object, videos, toy? You have to know this before you get started.

4. Begin using the reinforcer to encourage the child to mand. It is more involved than it appears but just understand that the child need to request appropriately before reinforced. Understand who they are currently communicating. Remember screaming is not appropriate way of manding.

5. Be prepared for the worst. If a child has been reinforced for screaming and hitting - then it may take awhile to 'unlearn' this behavior.

6. Take data. I can not stress this enough. You will not be able to determine progress without data.

7. Begin setting up situations where the child will have to request the reinforcer. When they request - immediately reinforce them by allowing them to have the object/edible or whatever it is they have requested.

This will get you started. Do your homework and begin researching the term. Also check with your speech/language pathologist for additional information.

If you want more information you may want to attend workshops by Vincent Carbone. His training was one of the most information trainings I have every attended and the most pertinent to the field of Autism, communication and behavior. I recommend this for educators and parents alike.